One year and four months ago, my wife and I touched down in our new home- New Zealand. It was a leap of faith moving to the other side of the world. We had never been to New Zealand, and we didn’t know anyone here. We left behind our life in New York City that we had spent nearly a decade establishing- jobs, friends, family, familiarity.
We decided to make this leap in spite of what have become the expected norms for our society. You’re expected to graduate from college, get a job, spend your days in a cubicle in a desperate, merciless struggle to climb the corporate ladder and accumulate material wealth. Our lives are judged on the commas in our bank accounts, the number of TV’s in our homes, and the car in our driveway. We decided that the value of life should instead be based on the richness of experience and the joy derived from it. And so, we landed in Christchurch, New Zealand to seek out new adventures and make the experience of life a little bit richer.
New Zealand is the mecca of the outdoor sports world. Every activity I enjoy- from trail running, to fly fishing, to cycling, and everything between- is world-class in NZ. The unique geography means that we have access to every landscape imaginable in a short drive. It is literally possible to ski in the morning, trail run or mountain bike in the afternoon, and surf in the evening of the same day.
Natural wonder aside, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy to start over like this, but we underestimated just how challenging it would be. The first few weeks were very difficult as we came to realize the enormity of our move. We had left behind all the connections we had ever known. Connections not just to people, but to the land, to the culture, and to the rhythm of life we had grown up with. We struggled to come to terms with these feelings, and some days it felt like we would never feel connected again.
Personally, I derive a great deal of peace and belonging from running. Wherever we’ve travelled, the best way for me to grasp a new place is to go running. From the streets of New York, to the mountains of Patagonia- I learn the layout of cities and towns, the geography, and the smells, sights, and sounds of a place through the practice of running each day. It is a practice I have been cultivating since I started running in 7th grade as a gangly 12-year-old. Running is both an active exploration and a moving meditation that calms my mind while invigorating my body.
I applied this same practice as a still-gangly, but (slightly) more mature 29-year-old who found himself in a foreign land. Slowly but surely, I began to feel connected to our new home. I learned the best routes to run, the feel of the forests and mountains. I met like-minded people who were out there seeking their own connections. The natural beauty of NZ is unparalleled, and the raw energy of the environment is palpable.
It helped enormously to remember that we hadn’t severed the connections we had back in America. Our friends and family were there with us in spirit. We knew they loved us and understood our need for adventure. The best part of this move has been getting to share this amazing place with our loved ones. Mike and Lukas of Team Adventure Portal were bold enough to brave the massive flights from NYC, to South Africa, to New Zealand to pay us a visit. Being able to share our connection and experience with them remains one of our favorite memories of our life here in NZ.
We know that we will move back to U.S. eventually, and will re-establish those connections that we left behind. We’ll be back to familiar routines and places, but the hunger for new experiences will never fade.
Connecting with others and with the natural world is one of the main goals of Team Adventure Portal. My hope in joining Mike, Lukas, and Mike in this venture is to encourage others to push their perceived limits and to experience the power of being outside. We can connect with others who share the same love of the outdoors and use the power of community to get involved. Whether it is a jog through a new part of Central Park, a trip to the Adirondacks, or a trip across the world- there is so much to see and to learn. Don’t let your fear or trepidation hold you back, get out there and connect.